Written by Bethany Tripp
The past year has meant different things to a lot of people, and while students may not be the worst off, there is definitely a shared opinion that students have definitely been neglected somewhat. While all students will have a different experience of Covid-19 and the effects on their studies, I wanted to share my thoughts with you of my student experience.
Start of the Lockdowns
When the first lockdown arose, back in March 2020, I was a final year Psychology student. I was in the middle of my dissertation and the middle of lectures that I would have exams on later in the semester. For me personally, the biggest downside to the lockdown at this time was that I was stuck at home for months on end, whilst still paying rent on a house in Bournemouth that I could not travel to. I found that I worked better in lockdown than I had previously, and was able to focus on my dissertation, without distractions (aside from my dog Bailey). I also felt that I was fortunate in that all my best friends, whom I would normally live with, were on a placement year, so I did not feel that I was missing out on uni life as such.
My university put in place the no detriment policy which I think in that academic year, was definitely needed for a lot of people. Many students were disadvantaged by Covid-19 whether is was that they had to change their whole dissertation idea or maybe they had to work from home which might not be a work-friendly environment. In all these matters I was lucky: I had collected all my data for my dissertation, I had no group work to complete and I had a comfortable environment to work in in my home, but others were not so lucky.
Exams in 2020
All of my exams were moved to an online format where I had to complete an exam online and submit it within 5 days. Exams were the only thing I felt that disadvantaged me personally, as I normally perform better in exams than assignments. Other students were delighted by this because it meant they were able to use their notes for the exam and had longer to complete it.. In my eyes, however, I saw two back to back assignments that we had to complete in 5 days. Lecturers also said they would mark the answers harsher due to these measures so for someone who struggles with the critical analysis, I wasn’t too happy. I guess this outcome was dependent on whether you are an exam or an assignment kind of person, and I am probably in the small minority that prefers exams!
Regardless of the year we had, I managed to persevere with my degree and finished with a 2:1, and I looked forward to my graduation. This graduation was meant to take place in November which was, as you can expect, cancelled. So for us 2020 graduates this was a disappointment, and despite Bournemouth University’s best efforts to delay graduation, it is unlikely we will ever have our graduation. So no boomerangs of me throwing my hat in the air I’m afraid to say.
Life after finishing university in a Covid world
After finishing my degree, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do after leaving university, which is probably the case for most people. I had always been interested in nutrition and healthy eating so I decided to use the time in lockdown to complete a free short course on nutrition at The Open University. I really enjoyed this course and it sparked a greater interest in nutrition. When looking for a job I knew that Covid-19 would make the job hunt even harder, so my attention turned to masters courses. I eventually decided to enrol in a MSc in Nutrition and Behaviour at Bournemouth University and was accepted onto the course.
An online course
I live in Portsmouth and have friends that had a student house in Bournemouth for their final year so I decided that I would not rent a house and would instead commute and if I ever needed to I was able to stay at my friends’ house. However, there was no need for this consideration as a short duration before I was due to start my course, I was informed semester one of my course will be delivered online. So for me this was great, I had experienced all of university life on my undergraduate so didn’t feel I was missing out in that regard, and I wasn’t paying rent or having to pay travel expenses. Since then, my course have now said my one year masters will be online for the full duration. This is the ideal outcome for me as I have saved a lot of money, but I know this news hit others on my course very hard as some of them have even moved countries to study a course that they could have stayed at home for.
In terms of the course itself, I really could not fault the dedication of my course leader, Fotini. She has constantly been available to listen to our problems and always checks on her students. I think this factor has been a large part of why my experience as a lockdown student has been more positive, but I know sadly not all students on other courses have felt the same level of support as I have. As well as my lecturer, my peers also have supported me. I have never met the people on my course in person, yet I feel that I have got to know them all far better than if they were in a lecture theatre, and this is owed to the online aspect of it. On our zoom lectures we are put into virtual classrooms so are given the opportunities to speak to different people each time, whereas on my undergraduate course I would only speak to the people I was sat next to.
Exams in 2021
I am now in the process of exam revision and it wasn’t until this point that I had experienced any negatives of being a student on my course in these times. As with my undergraduate course, my exam has been changed to an online exam which I have 72 hours to submit. When I have exams I always have been very dedicated to revision, starting it months in advance sometimes. With this online format, I can barely revise for an hour before feeling unmotivated. I don’t know whether it is because I don’t feel the need to revise given that it is online, whether it’s because I just haven’t got back into it due to the break from Christmas, or if it is because of lockdown. Either way I have never been so unfocused in my life and I hardly think it’s a coincidence that this has occurred during a lockdown.
What I have discovered since undertaking my Nutrition and Behaviour Masters is that within the field of nutrition, there is constant opportunities for CPD and such a big community. While this has been great for learning opportunities and I love being part of such a welcoming community, I feel like this has opened up a new door for ways for me to procrastinate. With my undergraduate and previous studies, I have procrastinated by watching Netflix or doing just about anything other than work, but I have been able to remotivate myself by telling myself that it I was being unproductive. With nutrition, I don’t know if it is just me, but I will procrastinate my course work by taking up other nutrition CPD or writing a blog post, but because it is still nutrition-related, I still feel productive. In fact this blog post that I am writing now I am doing instead of revising for an exam which is one week away. I’m not sure if this is a familiar feeling of other nutrition students but the availability of online CPD makes me very unproductive in terms of uni work.
Summarising my experience so far…
All in all I do think I am a lucky person in the circumstances, I have my health, I have managed to stay somewhat sane in all of this and have yet to suffer the economic effects of covid-19 on my job prospects. As I have said previously this is just one person’s experience of it, but I hope it gave you an insight into how Covid-19 has impacted me as a student.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I have enjoyed reflecting (or rather procrastinating), but I really do need to get some work done now!